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Heatstroke in Dogs

When the weather starts to warm up you will need to remember that your dog will warm up too. Between their fur and their inability to sweat, your dog may have a hard time keeping cool when it gets hot. Here, our Suffolk County vets talk about heatstroke in dogs, how it happens, the signs to watch for as well as how to prevent it from happening.

What is Heatstroke in Dogs?

Heatstroke is a condition that is characterized by the core body temperature increasing drastically. This is also known as prostration or hyperthermia and is directly impacted by the environment. The average body temperature for dogs should be around 99-102.5 degrees Fahrenheit. It is important to contact your vet f your pet's body temperature rises above 105 as this temperature is considered an emergency situation. 

It is important to acknowledge the signs of heatstroke because if this condition is not promptly treated then it has a high risk of being fatal for your dog.

How Do Dogs Get Heatstroke?

When humans get hot we begin to sweat which works to cool our bodies down. Dogs can't sweat, instead, our canine companions cool their bodies by panting. If panting isn't sufficient to cool themselves down, their body temperature may continue to rise resulting in heatstroke. 

Dogs of any size or breed can suffer from heatstroke but those with thick fur, short noses or those suffering from underlying medical conditions tend to be more susceptible to this condition.

The most common causes of heatstroke in dogs include:

  • Leaving a dog in a car on a hot or sunny day
  • Forgetting to provide adequate water for your pet
  • Not enough shade in pet's outdoor play area

Symptoms of Heatstroke in Dogs

Excessive panting is typically the first sign of a dog suffering from heatstroke. That said, panting isn't the only symptom of heatstroke in dogs. Other heatstroke symptoms that pet parents should be aware of include:

  • Drooling
  • Reddened gums
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Mental dullness
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Uncoordinated movement
  • Collapse

What You Should You Do if Your Dog Has Signs of Heatstroke

Heatstroke is a serious condition and symptoms should always be treated as an emergency! Heatstroke in dogs can lead to life-threatening issues such as abnormal blood clotting, swelling of the brain, kidney failure, and intestinal bleeding. 

If you notice that your dog is displaying signs of heatstroke head to your primary care vet, or the nearest animal emergency hospital right away. While traveling to the vet's office, keep the windows open or the air conditioner on full to help cool your pet.

If you are unable to get to a vet's office immediately, remove the dog from the hot environment straight away and allow your pup to drink as much cool water as they want without forcing them to drink. You can also help to bring your dog's body temperature down by placing a towel soaked in cool (not cold) water over them.

How Heatstroke in Dogs is Treated

Dog heatstroke treatment begins with the veterinary team safely reducing your dog's body temperature. Cool water may be poured over your dog's head, body, and feet, or cool wet cloths may be applied to those areas. In some cases rubbing alcohol may be applied to your dog's footpads in order to help dilate pores and increase perspiration. Treatment for dogs with heatstroke may also include intravenous fluids, mild sedation and low-concentration oxygen therapy.

Once your vet has had the opportunity to provide your dog with immediate treatment for heatstroke, they will monitor your dog for secondary conditions that could cause further complications if left untreated such as changes in blood pressure, electrolytes abnormalities, kidney failure, development of neurologic symptoms, and abnormal clotting. 

How to Prevent Heatstroke in Dogs

When it comes to the health and wellbeing of your pup, preventing heatstroke from ever happening is key. Prevent heatstroke in dogs by following the tips below:

  • Never leave a dog alone in a car. Even if you park in the shade and leave the windows cracked the temperature in your car could skyrocket! Studies have shown that even on cooler days, the temperature inside a car can rise by as much as 40 degrees in as little as one hour
  • Know your dog's level of heatstroke risk and take steps to be extra cautious with dogs that have an increased risk. Be aware of whether or not your dog is a breed that is more likely to suffer from heatstroke such as any breed with squished noses than dogs with longer noses. Some short-nosed dog breeds that are a higher risk include bulldogs, Boxers, Shih Tzus and mastiffs.
  • If your dog suffers from an underlying heart condition then they are at a higher risk of experiencing heatstroke.
  • If you must leave your dog outside for long periods of time when it's hot out, be sure to provide plenty of water and shade. A baby pool for a dog left outside may help, as they can cool themselves down by jumping in! Special cooling vests for dogs are also available for dogs that spend a lot of time in the heat.
  • If you have a working dog then you should pay special attention, as these dogs are very dedicated to their job and may ignore the fact that they are getting too warm. You should be sure to enforce breaks to allow your dog to cool off while working so that they do not overheat.

Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition, please make an appointment with your vet.

If you notice your dog showing any potential signs of heatstroke, contact our Suffolk County vets right away or visit your nearest animal emergency clinic

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Deer Park Animal Hospital is accepting new patients! Our experienced vets are passionate about the health of Suffolk County companion animals. Get in touch today to book your pet's first appointment.

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